This is an excerpt from Michael Kimber’s book “The Cure” featured on Michael Kimber’s website Colony of Losers. Michael Kimber’s hilarious and heart wrenching story of his descent into the pits of anxiety and the friends, family and physicians who brought him back. Check out the rest of the Cure here. His work has gotten international acclaim from such award-winning authors as, MacArthur Award winning author Jonathan Lethem and Commonwealth Award winning author Shandi Mitchell. With thousands of fans world wide, we are glad that he has become a regular contributor on mindyourmind.ca.
Cure#18: Sex, Drugs and Raoul
A lot of the moments where my life changed looked exactly the same.
My head slunked to my chest, eyes blurry from lack of sleep, my eight-year-old computer resting on my lap. People passing by didn’t realize that my friends and family were engaging in the titanic task of holding me up as I staggered towards sanity. Most of these conversations took place at the Second Cup on Spring Garden Road where the pleasant staff ignored the fact that I rarely, if ever, bought anything. I was working remotely for a local Internet marketing company nice enough to take me on. For the first several weeks I was on next to no sleep and my work was surprisingly low on errors, which is proof that you can get used to anything.
Right now is one of those important moments. In the background, people high on caffeine speed talk on their bluetooth, resembling schizophrenics talking to God.
“It’s the right thing,” types “Raoul”. “You’ll feel better.”
“There’s something about getting advice from you about taking drugs that doesn’t feel right,” I reply.
“Common sense finally got to you, didn’t it?”
“I listened to you a couple too many times,” I reply.
"Yeah, well live and learn. I been where you are at,” he says. “There is a way out and you are doing the right thing. I wouldn’t recommend going about it like I did. Sort of the scenic route.”
“Took your time,” I say.
“And a lot of other people’s,” he says. “Shit happens as it does. In my case there was a lot of shit.”
Raoul is one of my best friends from first year university and a man who could talk me into doing pretty much anything. He was my Attorney even if he also played Hunter S Thompson, ready to smooth talk his way past the devil on an ether binge. He was the sort of friend who you could knock on his door at 4 in the morning and he’d be ready to talk through your problems. Anyone fucked with me he would be in their face and with a giant’s body and a monstrous IQ he wasn’t easy to argue with. He was so convincing I found it easy to agree with him even when I shouldn’t have.
He was my guide through the world of drugs long before we were talking about anti-depressants.
Up until the middle of first year university I stuck exclusively to weed, hash and the occasional rum and coke. The night I did shrooms for the first time Raoul and the rest of my residence mates accompanied me in my dance with delusion. You could walk from room to room and hear different conversations inspired by mushrooms, acid and mescaline with a liberal sprinkling of weed smoke to make it go down a little easier.
For me shrooms was enough. Others went for the Triple Crown. One couple spent their evening in a cycle of laughing until they cried and then crying until they laughed. They alternated between freaking out and saving each other, the doctor and the patient switching clothes in a revolving door of drug fuelled decadence. The drug was the magician. Sometimes they were horny rabbits pulled out of a magician’s hat. Sometimes they were the assistants being cut in half.
Highlight moments of the evening included: the feeling of a second larger smile behind my own and a poison mushroom pulsing in my chest, the inability to stop laughing, a feeling of profound and revelatory stupidity, the strange illusion of still images having motion, a fantastic game of NHL 94 where we refused to score on each other and just passed the puck back and forth.
That night Raoul’s journey into darkness began.
Making the mistake of adding mescaline to his mushroom trip he split from us early, to curl under his covers and experience a panoramic hallucination of getting into the trunk of his car and sticking a shotgun in his mouth.
Having experienced depression since he was a teenager his breaking point was that night and the fall lasted for years.
Seeing the twisting interminable blackness of his chemical imbalance he went searching for a cure that would let him get as far away from his own mind as possible.
Like me he had parents who cared for him and were willing to support him in University. He failed classes, did copious amount of drugs and spent a lot of his parent’s money running away from his problems.
Raoul had a giant’s appetite for drugs, reveling in taking six and seven grams of mushrooms at a time and being able to maintain some strange sense of normalcy. He once explained the NeoPlatonists to me high on acid. I was asked the same question on my oral exam and received an A for his answer.
Certain moments stick out for me more than others.
The time he came over to my room after having not slept for 48 hours, hands shaking from the 30 dexis he took during that same time period. The time he bought a hundred Dilaudid from a friend of mine, saying he was going to sell them and instead keeping them all for himself. The time he told me he hallucinated blood falling as rain. When he first got into coke and I smoked some in a bowl mixed with weed and we went to the Spartan for breakfast. When he went past amateur experimentation with coke and was dangerously close to suicide. When I tried to reach out to him as he was doing lines and he offered me one and I took it just to keep the conversation going. The moment I gave up on trying tohelp him and could barely look at it him it hurt me so much to see people I loved do this to themselves. The realization that my own very limited experimentation with chemical drugs only occurred with Raoul. There was no longer a sense of occasion to his drug use. It wasn’t a whole residence of madmen celebrating their friendship by losing their minds. It was Tuesday and he was watching shit TV on expensive drugs.
I pulled away.
I didn’t understand what it was like to wish for your life to go away. Sometimes that meant doing so many hallucinogens that life became a magic trick and the right drug would make him disappear for a while. Problem was that he kept coming back and the drugs would only make him go away so long.
Raoul took antidepressants. Like many people he mistook taking a pill for taking responsibility. You have to stop smoking weed and drinking for the drugs to have much affect.
He got into pain pills and found himself alternating between institutions and rehab. He came back from rehab 50 pounds heavier and sedated to the slow motion. Even slow motion Raoul was quick enough to get fucked up. He was doing coke the night he got home. I slowly stopped hanging around. I couldn’t see how low he could go and missed out a lot of shitty things he did. We all have those things we say we’ll never do and feel the ground shake when we do them and the sky doesn’t fall; or rather it falls so slowly we can barely notice it doing so. He lived beneath that slowly falling sky for years and betrayed a lot of the values he held dear.
Then one day he got his shit together. Got a job, used his intelligence to climb the ladder and seemed to have beaten it.
The holocaust had become rocket fuel for his meteoric rise to power and success.
I remember seeing him at my friend’s wedding, the ridiculous reunion of the madmen I shared my first year with. He was so handsome and powerful in his suit, with easy answers and deep charm. Ready to be my brother again. Taking care of me when I drank too much Old Sam. Smoking weed in his tent, a rare place of sanity amongst the chaos of the wedding where dozens of us got drunk and went on a rampage of pranks, intensely personal conversations and a game of survival with an albino Newfoundlander who belly flopped on tents and brought them crashing to the ground.
Then a ridiculous series of circumstances led him to his rock bottom. Where the falling sky touched the ground and he had to choose between dead or alive, sober or stoned.
It started with a friend of ours falling off a cliff and breaking his leg. This friend was very athletic and didn’t make much use of the dialudids that his doctor gave him. Looking for a quick buck he sold them to Raoul thinking he would sell them in turn and make a small profit. Raoul didn’t sell them.
He would sell a lot of other things to buy more drugs.
He lost the woman he loved, his job, his sanity and after a long period of torture had the strength to get himself drug free.
Methadone keeps him that way.
As we talk, ativan buzzes through my system. It is the most effective and pleasant sleeping pill I have tried, a chemical cousin to valium. You wake up in the mornings and feel like your mind is a warm blanket. I have been spending too much time in chat forums and too much time thinking about Raoul to believe ativan offers a permanent solution to my problems. In fact, my latest focus for my anxiety is a worry that I’ll become addicted to the medications and not be able to get off of them.
In November, I sent Raoul a message telling him that I understood better what he had gone through and that I missed him. Since then we have been talking on Facebook and he reminds me of the man I knew so many years ago. Jaded, funny and smart and really good at giving advice even if he wasn’t good at taking it.
“You still smoke weed?” he asks.
“Not for a couple weeks. Don’t drink at all.”
“Wish I had done that. Took me a long time to realize that they just made shit worse in the long run” he says. “You should stay off that shit if you can.”
“I just want to feel normal again,” I say.
“Well you are taking the right steps,” he says. “Doing CBT?”
“Yeah, everyday. Doesn’t do shit,” I reply.
“Takes a while for it to have an effect but I swear by that shit. Rewires your brain so it doesn’t go haywire,” he says. “Just keep working it. None of this shit happens as fast as you want it to.”
“What about sexual dysfunction?” I ask. “Ever happen to you?”
“Yeah sort of,” he says. “No problem with my erections or anything. Solid as a rock. Definite murder stick. However I couldn’t come on Prozac. For like nine months. Lead to losing the girl I was with.”
Nausea builds in my stomach and begins its slow movement up my arms into my head and finally my brain. This is the terror that keeps a lot of people from going on medication. The devil’s deal of sanity to lose the ability to fuck, which ultimately is trading the possibility of losing your loved ones to your illusions for the possibility of losing them to your chemical altered reality.
My girlfriend made me so happy that I stopped being a writer and started being a person. Finding more pleasure in my time with her than in the worlds I could make up, I suddenly had to confront my own raging insecurities. Now the imagination I used to put on paper blurs my ability to see the world and her. I don’t want to lose the ability to make love to her. But when you are this low it’s hard for you to make love that isn’t just sex. She wants me and I can’t do that even if I can fuck her silly. I just have his face. I’m not the same person.
“Was it worth it?” I ask.
“Hell yeah,” he says. “I wouldn’t trade sanity for anything, anybody, no matter how great they are. And a lot of medications don’t have that side effect. It depends on the person. You got to try to see and if you don’t like it you can try something else. I have tried some of pretty much everything.”
The time between messages is short but I see a beautiful woman walk past me. I wonder if the way I look at beautiful women will change. Someone complains about the weather and their girlfriend being on her period.
“You do Wellbutrin? I hear that increases your sex drive,” I say. I’ve done a lot of research on anti-depressants and this is the one I want to be on. Wellbutrin increases sex drive, makes you lose weight instead of gain forty pounds and instead of making you Zombie Happy it allows you a full range of emotions.
“Didn’t like it. Felt like I was on coke,” he says. “Which is surprising because you know how much I liked coke.”
“My mom is on that and she says it is the first drug where she felt like herself,” I say.
“I’ve been on a lot I don’t like,” he says. “I’m down to taking barely any. Just a lot of CBT, methadone and a little clonazepam for sleep. Writing and getting my shit together. Going to write a graphic novel. Going to be fuuuuucked.”
“I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.”
“You have no idea,” he says.
“You weren’t changed?” I ask.
“Nah, I was still a fuck up,” he says. “I have to figure out how to use this brain for good instead of evil. Pills don’t do that.”
“You got it figured it out, then?” I ask.
“Nah, but I’m trying,” he says.
“So you are a straight edge now?” I ask.
“Bible thumper,” he replies. “Convincing women to follow the good book.”
“Going to strip clubs to convert the sinners?” I ask.
"Did I tell you that I was banging a stripper a little while back?” he asks.
He has but he has a habit of repeating good stories and I like the way he tells it.
I can remember what he was like when we were kids together. When all we had to do was fuck a beautiful woman and all of our problems would be solved. When we went to war with the rest of the world instead of ourselves. When no one could fuck with me because Raoul had my back.
“So I was trying to convince her that she didn’t need a stripper pole,” he says.
I can’t stop laughing. Haha doesn’t convey it accurately. I write LOL and want to write actually. I’m laughing so loud that patrons are looking at me and the staff might ask me to actually buy something.
“Seriously,” he says. “You would have loved her. Well maybe not. You still into sad girls?”
“Nah,” I say. “She makes me laugh more than anyone ever has.”
“She made me laugh too,” he says. “She had this friend. One of those high voiced girls who always speaks louder when she gets drunk, sounded like the distortion when a Mic is too close to a speaker.”
He hasn’t lost his gift. He has convinced me it could all be right again. Convinced me that he is okay and that somehow I can be too.
He is off drugs.
I think I will go on them.
Music video by Michael Kimber “Save the Date”